Automation Technologies Have Emerged as a Saviour During This Global Crisis

Noida, India – Aug 11th, 2020 – In an exclusive e-interaction with the editor of Industrial Automation Magazine, Ms. Sanghamitra Barman, Deputy General Manager – RPA, JK Technosoft Ltd., expresses her thoughts on how Automation Technologies are aiding the battle against the pandemic and widening the opportunities for advancements across different sectors.

Sanghamitra Barman - e-interaction with Industrial Automation Magazine

Q. Covid-19 pandemic has brought home the message ‘automate or perish’ like never before. Are enterprises heeding it?

A. Businesses are hugely impacted because of the pandemic. It is affecting the economy across the globe. Definitely, enterprises are cautious and taking major steps towards digital adoption. We all have already seen hospitals adopting to digital technologies be it from scheduling appointments to initial screening, lab testing and providing test results; insurance agencies automating their claims system enabling customers with faster processing; banks processing small business loans in record time; retailer providing boost to online and app based shopping experience; schools leaning to online classrooms, etc. Even the organisations who may have been slow to adopt automation technologies – such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) – have begun leveraging them as a way to cut costs during economic turmoil, provider faster service to customers, and revamp their operations for distributed work.

The need to transform has led to the need for integrated automation, which is the intersection between AI, automation and analytics, and people and processes. Now we have seen a lot of requirements from our existing customers on the automation side as every organisation wants to save cost and ensure business continuity throughout this pandemic situation. The automation solutions are now seen not just as emergency solutions, but as long-term strategic changes to allow business to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

Q. What exactly is the scenario – are there still low hanging fruit to pick, especially in extending the use of RPA?

A. Due to Covid-19 and the enforced lockdown, customers are struggling to get the support or service they need, while the customer service teams are having to adapt to working remotely and with fewer resources. In this situation, elaborate implementations and integrations might be too time-consuming. This is where RPA serves as a saviour. Processes that need to be done repetitively without much decision making could be handed off to RPA. However, the success of RPA lies in selecting the right set of processes that can be automated for the best RoI with the quickest turnaround time.

While there are tonnes of RPA use cases, processes related to finance and HR departments like account reconciliation, invoice and payment processing, employee onboarding, payment scheduling, etc., are few of the low hanging fruits organisations can plan to pick to realise the quick benefits of RPA. Few more use cases relevant to current pandemic situation may be:

  1. Insurance and claims processing.
  2. Retail and stock management.
  3. Loan processing.
  4. Appointment scheduling, screening and diagnosis, recovery and monitoring.
  5. Employee onboarding and HR request processing, and
  6. Booking cancellation and refund processing.

Q. The lockdown brought virtually everything to a standstill. How could more automation adoption have helped in easing the pain?

A. The Covid-19 pandemic has created an economic turmoil, where industries and businesses have come to a standstill. Organisations are also suffering losses due to the shortfall in productivity due to the lockdown and are now outlining new strategies to adopt automation technologies. However, automation technologies have been around for some time, with their deployment at various levels like chatbots, automated tele-calling, voice assistants, or the industrialised robotic environment. The reason many companies, especially the IT sector was able to manage and grow during this time was because of the inclusion of technology in their operations; making adoption of Work from Home a comparatively easier process. Organisations that adopted automation long before Covid-19 struck are navigating the crisis and somewhat less impacted by Covid-induced disruptions.

Technologically advanced Asian countries such as China and South Korea have successfully limited Covid-19 deaths and a significant credit goes to their high-quality technological infrastructure. From factories and warehouses to hotels and hospitals, they have effectively used technology to fight the pandemic and safeguard local production to keep the economy running.

In the pre-crisis world, many believed that automation will boost their organisation’s productivity, reduce labour costs, and drive sales, while others argued that it will have devastating consequences on workers, leading to mass unemployment and increased inequality. The pandemic is going to change this perception forever as automation technologies like chatbots, delivery robots, unmanned vehicles have emerged as a saviour during this global crisis.

Q. Is there a way out for mass transportation to resume operations given the passenger load, and can technology enable this?

A. Technology has changed access to information drastically and widened the opportunities for what is possible. With smartphones, people have access to information instantly. Leveraging advanced technology in public transport can bring a drastic change and could be a people’s preferred form of travel. Companies believe that passenger empowerment is the future of travel. Nowadays there are multiple features that serves the travellers with conveniences such as accurate real-time information, electronic ticketing, mobile-optimised applications and route planners, to name a few. The best way to deliver a seamless and more convenient travel experience, the passengers and their transport need must be the centre of solution.

We at JKT, have developed applications for one of the leading transport companies to help them meet the passengers’ expectations by unifying the travel services into a delightful and omni-channel experience and thus accelerating passenger boarding times, improving operations and ticketing capacity.

Q. What kind of services JK Technosoft offers to manufacturing and process industries?

A. Advancement in technology for manufacturing and supply chain, as machinery and appliances are getting smarter day by day. We help our clients to stay competent in market digital age technologies for smart manufacturing such as predictive maintenance, machine learning, recommendation engine and other IoT based solutions. At JK Technosoft, we offer ERP solutions, SAP, Progress, QAD topped up with RPA/AI/ML and Analytics from
manufacturing to process, dairy and retail industry which supports production, supply chain, sales, marketing and customer experience and Finance and HR.

Q. How does AI help in predictive maintenance and what are the solutions available?

A. Predictive maintenance for Industry 4.0 provides the solution for preventing asset failure by identifying the pattern and predicting the issue before they happen, thus maintaining each of the assets proactively. Predictive maintenance applied with an intelligent algorithm optimising the entire maintenance strategy from top to bottom. JK Technosoft is the platform emulating access to data and enabling enterprises to build their own path to AI. More than 150 customers across retail, e-commerce, healthcare, finance, transportation, the public sector, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and more use JKT to massively scale AI efforts.

Q. For MSMEs, legacy equipment and systems are a big issue. What is the way out?

A. We have seen the ongoing trends in the market where legacy systems have been a challenge in digital transformation. With MSMEs clamouring to implement their digital strategies, most of the businesses fail to see through their digital transformation plans to a satisfactory conclusion due to the limitations of existing legacy systems which are quite unruly, cumbersome and challenging to upgrade. The Major issues associated with the legacy systems are- maintenance, integration and business opportunities.

Realising today’s business scenario and considering the benefits of digital transformation, modernising a legacy system is important for the organisations. It gives us much more room for growth in the future and making use of big data. Also, we have noticed key factors like security and performance where upgrading from an on-premise solution to a cloud solution has long been an area of concern for decision-makers, primarily because of the perceived risks of hosting company data on cloud servers.

Q. For application modernisation, following best practices/checklists are recommended for a way forward:

  1. Assess your system for the need of upgrade keeping an eye on your organization’s business plan and considering which upgrade will give you the most bang for your buck.
  2. Choose the right modernisation approach that best fits the needs and deliver faster results.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel if a product already exists providing the similar functionality.
  4. Consider microservices approach – modernise the most important feature first.
  5. Phased retirement plan – even if the new digitised solution works fine without a hitch, don’t abruptly retire the legacy system. Plan for a graceful retirement of the system, and
  6. Plan for training and regular updates – budget should be allocated for training the staff to take care of the new system and plan for regular system updates to avoid another modernisation challenge.

Read the full interview here on  Industrial Automation Magazine